|December 2, 2005
Documents provided to the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which were sent to various Union Presidents on Monday, November 28th,
prove that the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) was directly involved in the drafting of Bill 27 with the cooperation of employer
Bill 27 is a controversial Bill introduced by the Alberta Progressive Conservative Government that set in motion a process to reduce the
number of bargaining units in health care. It led to a series of acrimonious and bitter run-off votes, cancelled longstanding collective
agreements, removed the right to strike for community health and other workers, and denied nurse practitioners the right to join a union.
It was widely seen as an anti-union piece of legislation.
Documents received by the AFL show that key figures of the ALRB breached their role by actively participating in the drafting of legislation,
and by consulting with employer representatives about the content of draft legislation, says the AFL.
The AFL received documents as part of a FOIP Commissioners Inquiry. The documents reveal that ALRB Chair Mark Asbell and
Vice-Chair Les Wallace were actively involved in the drafting of Bill 27, the Labour Relations (Regional Health Authorities Restructuring)
Amendment Act. Their participation in the process contravenes the role of the ALRB, and places into serious jeopardy its independence.
The documents also suggest the ALRB actively consulted with employer representatives in the drafting of the Bill - another contravention
of its role that undermines impartiality.
"We have a "smoking gun" that demonstrates a serious breach of the ALRB's mandate," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "The actions
of the two senior officials at the Board have allowed the LRB to become biased and compromised."
"We need a public inquiry to get to the bottom of how deeply compromised the LRB is," says McGowan. "The truth needs to come out."
The AFL sent a letter today to Human Resources Minister Mike Cardinal demanding a public inquiry into the breach.
On November 30th, the AFL received a letter from the lawyer for the Privacy Commissioner demanding the return of the documents
received by the AFL - saying it got them in error. The AFL has responded by refusing to return the documents on the grounds they have
the right to access these documents and there is a pressing public interest that requires full disclosure of the documents. Neither the
Commissioner nor the ALRB have not indicated what their next legal steps will be.
Following the receipt of the documents, the AFL sent them to its 350 affiliated union presidents, to update them on ongoing efforts to
reveal the truth about the Bill 27 process. The AFL called upon senior union leaders to discuss their next steps in a show of united force.
The ALRB, as an arms-length quasi-judicial body, has the mandate of interpreting and enforcing the Labour Relations Code. In
performing its job, it must adhere to a strict policy of independence and neutrality. As the "court" for labour relations, it must avoid
participating in the setting of government policy or regulations regarding labour relations. In other words, its job is to interpret the law, not
"The documents we have received clearly show that the Vice-Chair of the LRB wrote the bill that the government used to attack health
care unions," notes McGowan. "This says to me that the LRB has sided clearly with the employer - and destroyed any semblance of
fairness in their dealings. For an LRB, this is unconscionable."
Bill 27 set in motion a process to reduce the number of bargaining units in health care. It led to a series of acrimonious and bitter run-off
votes, cancelled longstanding collective agreements, removed the right to strike for community health and other workers, and denied
nurse practitioners the right to join a union. It was widely seen as an anti-union piece of legislation.
"The ALRB is the anchor of our modern labour relations system. If the parties can't trust its fairness and independence, the whole
system is at risk. The actions of the LRB's senior officials have jeopardized trust in the system. This could have wide ranging
implications." McGowan concludes.